Ten YA Fantasy Novels This Fantasy Newb Needs To Read

Top Ten Tuesday, asΒ  always, is hosted at my other blog — The Broke & the Bookish

This week’s topic: Top Ten Books I Can’t Believe I Have Read (or want to read) in X genre

I’m pretty new to the YA fantasy genre so there’s much schooling that needs to happen there so I wanted to talk about the 10 fantasy novels I feel like I need to read to start my fantasy education (I’ve read Sarah J. Maas, Marie Rutkoski, Leigh Bardugo and Rae Carson so no worries if you are wondering where they are). I’d love all you fantasy experts to weigh in and even add more suggestions!!

ten YA fantasy novels

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
The Demon King by Cinda Chima Williams
Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Scarlet by AC. Gaughen
The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas



So tell me…what fantasy books are NOT on my list and should be in order to have a good YA fantasy diet? πŸ˜›Β Β  Also tell me the ONE on here that I MUST read before the others!

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. GRACELING, I love that book so much!!! I need to read Finnikin, too, so you’re not alone! I read the first FALLING KINGDOMS and SCARLET book and need to catch up. I’ve heard FK has gotten REALLY good! DEMON KING is on my list this week, too! Juliet Marillier–LOVE!!! I actually like her book HEART’S BLOOD even more than DOTF b/c it’s Beauty and the Beast, but I love this, too. Ooh, I really enjoyed THE BURNING SKY. It reminds me of Tamora Pierce…um, who also needs to be on this list πŸ˜‰ Especially her Alanna/Kel/Daine books! I can’t wait to finally read SERAPHINA now that the sequel is coming out! THE THIEF is on my list today, too! I’ve only read the first POISON STUDY book…we might be getting her to come sign soon, so keep an eye out! πŸ˜‰ Great choices. All great books to read! So glad you love fantasy now!!!

    If you could only choose ONE? so hard! GRACELING πŸ™‚

    • NOTED. Will look into Tamora Pierce! Thanks! And yeah…Graceling seems like one of those “classics” to get into the genre that everyone must read!

      • Tamora Pierce was my favorite author for so long. I brought every one of her books to college and trekked them around each year from dorm to dorm. I still love her. If you read her, read her Alanna (Song of the Lioness) quartet first, then Daine (The Immortals), then Kel (Protector of the Small) because they come in order chronologically. It’s also nice seeing Alanna and Daine all grown up! πŸ™‚ I love those books so much. Tamora Pierce made me pick up other authors such as Sherwood Smith (You can get e-book copies of Crown Duel/Court Duel together for $4.99. Otherwise it’s OOP, though I found a print copy at the used bookstore in Newtown once and bought it!), and newer authors in the genre such as Kristin Cashore and Rae Carson. And now I have a weakness for girls disguised as guys and will pick up books to read them such as The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas or girl knight books (they’re rare) such as The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell.

        OMG, I’m so jealous of the journey you’re going to embark on, Jamie!!!

  2. The Demon King is PHENOMENAL! I was completely blown away when I read it this summer and devoured the entire series after it. Have you read Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns yet? If not, it should definitely be on your list too πŸ™‚

    My Top Ten

  3. I was just mentioning to another blogger that I want to read Poison Study. It’s been on my wish list forever. Graceling and Seraphina are both books I’ve wanted to read for awhile now too, but haven’t So many choices! Great list, Jamie!

    • Hopefully we both will have some good fantasy reading in our future then since I’ve just heard rave things about all of them!! πŸ™‚

  4. Great list! The Demon King is very good and I totally fangirl-ed while reading Scarlet! Sadly I was very disappointed with Graceling but I lot of people love it. Good reading!
    My TT: http://betweenyabookends.blogspot.com/2015/02/top-10-fantasy-classic-books-we-want-to.html

  5. Poison Study is a defiant YES. I really like Howl’s Moving Castle and other books by Diana Wynne Jones. Gail Carson Levine books (Ella Enchanted) are great, too.

  6. I did fantasy too! It’s my new favorite genre and I want to read ALL THE BOOKS. The only one I’ve read from your list is SCARLET and oh my gosh, it is so good. Please read it soon. And I’ve heard many good things about Chima’s and Marchetta’s books, and THE THIEF and GRACELING.

    Rachel @ Beauty and the Bookshelf

  7. I’m also getting into fantasy and Graceling is certainly on my radar. I’ve heard great things! I hope you get to read these books soon!

    • Yes I’ve heard so much about Graceling that I know it will be read soon! And good luck into your fantasy foray as well!

  8. graceling is also on my list

  9. Graceling is really good and there is a ship that seriously is just the best thing ever.
    I just recently read Scarlet and OHMYGOD SO GOOD! I didn’t really classified it as fantasy, it definitely more historical/retelling but so good, it’s extremely action packed and has a frenetic rhythm that makes you don’t want to put it down. And oh, has the most amazing ship too.
    But I’m also really behind on the general popular YA fantasy series, need to read all the other of these AND Marie Rutkoski, Leigh Bardugo and Rae Carson :O

  10. Am I allowed to book push the eff out of some of the series in this list? Because I totally will CONSTANTLY remind you to read them, read them, read them if you’ll let me πŸ˜‰ But seriously, let me break it down for you:

    Finnikin of the Rock (+ Froi of the Exiles, Quintana of Charyn) – It’s Melina Marchetta, which means the writing is gorgeous. The story is also pretty epic, even though Finnikin does have a bit of a slow start.

    Seraphina (+ Shadow Scale) – DRAGON BOOK DRAGON BOOK DRAGON BOOK. Oops, my enthusiasm for dragons got the best of me there… But I loved Seraphina, and I’m super excited about the forthcoming sequel!

    Daughter of the Forest – Read it last year, LOVED it, intend to reread it this month and binge the rest of the series. Juliet Marillier catapulted herself into my favorite authors with ONE book. That’s definitely testament to how amazing her writing is.

    The Burning Sky (+The Perilous Sea, The Immortal Heights) – THIS SERIES IS AWESOME.

    As for other series you ought to check out, Harry Potter, the Inheritance Cycle + anything Tamora Pierce are the first ones that come to mind πŸ˜‰

    • THIS COMMENT IS THE BEST. ( I WILL LET YOU). I love your breakdowns here!! YOU MAKE ME MORE EXCITEDDDDDD. And YES Tamora Pierce. I need to. Which series do you like best from her?

  11. Daughter of the Forest is such a good book, I suggest starting with that!
    Graceling is great too. And in terms of books not on your list, the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey is epic.

  12. GRACELING!!! You need to read this ASAP! It is one of my absolute favorites and I, much like you, am not well-versed in the fantasy genre. The only fantasy book I know of that can hold a candle to Graceling in YA is Throne of Glass and since you already like that one, I’m sure you’ll love Graceling, too!!

  13. I haven’t read any of yours thou, but those covers are getting to me :]

  14. I read Poison Study a couple of years ago and enjoyed, so I definitely recommend checking it out. I’d like to read Seraphina, too; I’ve heard some pretty wonderful things about it. Great list!

  15. I have been convinced of Finnikin because of three other blogging buddies, and I nabbed Shadow Scale off Netgalley last week thinking I had the full ebook of Seraphina, but it was only a sampler. I guess I will get it from the library. πŸ™‚

    • AHHH I hate when things are a sampler and you thought it was the real deal!! And yeah…I LOOOOVE Melina Marchetta so Finnikin was going to happen SOME time or another but def more and more excited now that I’m loving fantasy!

  16. I have read Poison Study and it is so good. I loved it!

  17. You need to read Seraphina! It’s a really beautiful world, and book 2 comes out in March! You can never go wrong with dragons!

    Read my TTT: http://cbookbabblings.blogspot.com/2015/02/books-i-cant-believe-i-havent-read.html

  18. Wow, this makes me look really bad. I haven’t read any of these, and the only author I’ve read from of the ones you have already read is Rae Carson. Maybe I should try to fix this?! So yeah, I’m definitely a fantasy littling!

  19. Seeing so much of Poison Study today! I LOVE that book! The entire series really! Basically I love Maria’s books! LOL!

    I still need to read Seraphina as well! And OMG Falling Kingdoms is sooooo good! Definitely my favorite fantasy YA, as I consider Maria adult fantasy since her books were always shelved over in that section! But I can see it being considered either or both!

    Here’s my Tuesday Post

    Have a GREAT day!

    Old Follower πŸ™‚

  20. As it seems there are a lot I need to read too. I’ve definitely been on a fantasy kick lately and I always hear so much about these.
    Of course…there are a few of these I have to push. I got so lost in the world of Graceling in the best way possible. I adored that book and that world. Its large in size but I flew through it. Poison Study was also pretty darn good. I loved the main character and all that she learns and discovers about herself (my favorite kind of book to read I guess). And Scarlet…what can I say about that series. I am in love with it. I got so wrapped up in that world and the characters that it destroyed me in the best way possible. I laughed, cried, swooned. Ah, so perfect. I feel like if you have access to all 3 then get on that, because the wait for the last one is KILLING me.
    I’ll definitely be adding some of this list to my TBR.

    • Eee I love getting lost in worlds like that so you just made me even more excited for Graceling!! And that is so my fave kind of book to read tooooo re: Poison Study so THAT has me written all over it then!!

      Hope the 3rd in the Scarlet series lives up to your expectations!!! Thanks for all your input…it was infectious!!

  21. Finnikin of the Rock changed my life! It completely open my eyes to the world of fantasy. Then graceling added to that love. So those two first for sure’

    • Thank you for your input!! Curious…have you read Marchetta’s contemps??? THEY ARE MY FAVORITES. Like I knew naturally I would read the fantasy bc I love her but I’m getting super duper excited about it now that I’m into fantasy!

  22. The Thief should be your top priority so you can then read the second book in the series. The Queen of Attolia is my favorite book of all time.

    Other fantasies you may want to try are Chime by Franny Billingsley and anything by Rachel Neumeier.

    • I just got Chime out at the library but had to take it back because I SUCK at reading my library books haha. Never heard of Neumeier! Thanks for the rec!

  23. All of these books either are on my list this week or should be on my list this week. I need to read all of these and I cannot believe I haven’t read them either. Great list!

  24. I fully support pretty much all of the books on your list, but if you’re asking what you should read first, I’m gonna say The Demon King, because that series is AMAZING! It gets better with every book and it’s one that even my boyfriend who doesn’t read loved (he kept bugging me till I finished the last book so he could read it). Graceling, Scarlett, The Burning Sky and Poison Study are SO good as well!
    If you haven’t read them, I’d also recommend The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, Half a King by Joe Abercrombie, Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, Splintered by A.G. Howard, Poison by Bridget Zinn and The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell. I could pretty much go on and on πŸ˜‰

  25. These are all excellent! I have to suggest that you absolutely add the MISTBORN trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. It is my favorite fantasy of all time! You can never have enough kick ass female protags, incredible world building, or ingeniously creative magic systems.

  26. I’d definitely say Graceling from the ones on your list! And I LOVE Scarlet so much but it can be hard for some people to get through. But if you do read Scarlet, you NEED to read the whole series. I haven’t started Lion Heart yet but the end of Lady Thief is brutal. I love them! And a YA fantasy that isn’t on your list that I’d recommend (though you may have read it already) is Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. It’s just really beautiful.

    • Oooh noted re: the Scarlet series! I will wait then! And okay I was going to put DoSaB on my list but I wasn’t sure if it was fantasy or not haha. I never can tell sometimes before I read a book! SO wanting to read that soon!

  27. I didn’t love Seraphina though it was okay. I really want to read Falling Kingdoms and The burning sky!! *-*

    My Top Ten Tuesday: http://frannieinthepages.blogspot.it/2015/02/top-ten-tuesday-ten-books-i-cant.html

  28. 1. Graceling is amazing.
    2. Seraphina is also amazing.

    I have to read the rest as well.

  29. You HAVE to read Graceling first. Definitely πŸ˜€

  30. Jamie! Go reserve The Thief and Seraphina from your library right this second! Aside from The Thief being fantasy canon at this point it is a really brilliant series starter. And my love for Seraphina simply knows now bounds. And Finnikin is also brilliant.

    Beyond these you need to read some Diana Wynne Jones as soon as possible. I’d say either Fire and Hemlock or Howl’s Moving Castle.

    Also Enchanted by Alethea Kontis and some of Sarah Beth Durst’s books (like Vessel!). I’ll stop now before I write a whole novel here. But seriously, if you EVER want to talk fantasy, you know where I am on Twitter πŸ™‚

    • Teheh I like when you yell at me to do things! I WILL DO IT. And yes I’ve heard good things about DWJ as well so I should add her to my list. She is kind of like “classic” fantasy yes? Thanks for all the recs, lady!!

  31. OK, these are some fantastic choices! I’m working on a library programming project with The Burning Sky right now, and not only is the book really great, the author is absolutely awesome too.

    How about some classic YA fantasy? Tamora Pierce, Garth Nix, Dianna Wynne Jones — have you read their stuff yet?

    • Noted!! I will add the classic fantasy to my list!! Thank you! Esp Garth Nix. Funny story: at a party I went to during BEA I met Garth Nix and my friend is a HUGE fan of him so I asked him to take a selfie which was hilarious. He was such a cool, fun guy so now I feel like I PROBABLY should read his books since I took a selfie with him haha And esp since fantasy fans I knew were like YOU DID WHAT?!?!? So I guess he is a big deal?? (I HAD NO IDEA)

  32. Oh, I can’t believe you haven’t read SCARLET yet! It seems like a book you’d love. πŸ™‚

    • Oooh those words are like music to my ear ALWAYS — “seems like a book you’d love”. YAY then. Soon I shall start that series!

  33. Lena Marsteller says:

    I just finished Graceling in January…. it was amazing!!!! I definitely recommend it! I also recommend Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff, this one is fantasy/dystopian/ science fiction but its so unique with its Japanese folklore mixed in!!! I also need to read Falling Kingdoms, and The Burning Sky series.

    • Oh I’m so glad to hear you loved Graceling!! And ooh I was curious about Stormdancer so you’ve sufficiently piqued my interest!

  34. I read Daughter of the Forest last summer and it has become one of my all-time favorite books. I will definitely reread it sometime down the road. It’s SO GOOD!

  35. Daughter of the Forest is one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking fantasies, so I hope you read it soon!

    The Graceling series and the Seven Realms series are both easy-to-love fantasies, even for people who are new to the genre. Seraphina is extremely slow-paced, so it might not be the best place to start. The Thief is actually quite boring, but the following books are well worth the rough start!

    • Thank you for your input!! I really appreciate it because you’ve given me insight in where to start and maybe which books to wait a little bit on until I get further in my fantasy journey! Thanks!!

  36. Poison Study has been on my TBR for a while now but I just haven’t read it yet. I need to grab Seraphina next time I’m at the library, if only because The Book Rat recommends it so highly. I tried Falling Kingdoms but I really just didn’t enjoy it. Hated everyone – didn’t make it past the first 100 pages (give or take a few).

  37. I am not much of a fantasy reader and the only one I have read is The Winners Crime which you have read. I like some of your picks especially The Burning Sky and falling kingdoms.

    My top 10 Tuesday: http://readingawaythedays.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/top-ten-tuesday-1.html

  38. I’m not sure if it’s any sort of staple- I don’t read that much fantasy myself, but I really like Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy stuff.

  39. Ooh, I love fantasy books and hope you have a lot of fun in the genre.

    Of the books you’ve got up there, I think my favorite was Falling Kingdoms, (I’m starting to love that series) although Graceling was quite fun as well. (You’ve got about four books on that list that I want to read but haven’t gotten to yet.) If you really want suggestions… I do second Tamora Pierce. I’ve just gotten started with her, reading the Beka Cooper series and it’s really good. I also loved Poison by Bridget Zinn. If you’re interested in a fantasy story that is very, very heavy on the romance, I adore Cruel Beauty. (Hmm, I guess I’ve not read as many YA fantasy books as I thought I had.)

  40. FINNIKIN! FINNIKIN ALL THE WAY! The series is utterly exquisite, and well, well worth the hype. I can’t rave about Melina Marchetta enough.

    Graceling is also a staple in the YA fantasy genre – and for good reason. So those are my two recs!

    • LOOOOOOVE MARCHETTA. Her contemps are my all time faves!! I have VERY high expectations for this series because of that!! EEEP. Graceling has been the most recced on here so DEFINITELY going to be my first from this list then!!

  41. OMG so much yes with so many of these!!! I still need to read Daughter of the Forest and Seraphina but I have heard good things about both. The rest are all some of my favorite fantasy reads with the exception of Falling Kingdoms which I couldn’t finish….but I love the covers so might give it another shot at some point as maybe it was a timing/mood thing for me.

    My TTT is here.

  42. Finnikin of the Rock is one of my favourite books, genre aside. It’s just so beautiful. And both Seraphina and Graceling are fabulous! After these, if your appetite is ever whetted for some non-YA fantasy fiction, Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora and Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind are personal favourites.


    • I’m so happy to hear that. I love Marchetta’s contemporary so I am SOOOO excited!! And thank you for the non YA recs!! Excited to check these out!

  43. A few of these were not my favorites (but I am in the minority about that), but I definitely recommend Seraphina and Graceling and The Thief. Each are definitely aspects of YA fantasy.

  44. Now that I’m looking at this list, I realize that I haven’t read many of them either! But I AM starting Falling Kingdoms today, so I’m very excited about that. I also plan on reading Scarlet within the next month or so.

    The two that I recommend most would be The Demon King and The Burning Sky, although Chima’s books are the ones I’d go for first πŸ™‚

    • We should have a Scarlet series readalong since the last book is coming out!! And thanks for your input! The Demon King has been getting a lot of “YES YOU MUST” in the comments here!

  45. I haven’t read most of these either! I recently read Finnikin and honestly wasn’t that impressed, but that might have been because I read a lot of hype about it before. I don’t know most of these new fantasy novels, but I know a lot of older ones! The Bartamaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud is a great one about Jinn, The Lost Years of Merlin by TA Barron is good (but I did literally read that in Middle school, so not sure what I would think now), and the Ann McCaffrey books Dragonriders of Pern is a great dragon series. And how could I almost-forget! I love Diana Wynne Jones very much – especially her Chronicles of Chrestomanci books (which involve parallel universes, which is something that I just eat up!). Now to add these in your post to my TBR!!

    • Have you read Marchetta’s contemps?? I love those soo much! I’m hoping I love Finnikin but, like you said. SO MUCH HYPE FOR IT and also my own expectations bc I love this author!

      Thank you so much for all these recs!! *runs to Goodreads*

  46. I need to read more fantasy as well. I joined the Flights of Fantasy challenge, and I’m really excited to read some more. Of these, I’ve read Graceling, Scarlet, Seraphina, and Poison Study. I really enjoyed them all.

    • I didn’t do any challenges this year but if I did one it would have been Flights of fantasy! How fun! Looks like we have some EXCELLENT fantasy reading ahead of us!! Good luck w the challenge!

  47. Yay, that’s awesome that you want to read more fantasy! I say yes to Kristin Cashore, Megan Whalen Turner and Juliet Marillier. They’re three of my favorite fantasy authors. With Melina Marchetta, I love her contemps more than her fantasy.

    Other titles I’d recommend:

    Beauty and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
    Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
    Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
    The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
    Medair by Andrea K. Host
    Sabriel by Garth Nix

    • OOOOH girl thank you for all these recs! Really appreciate it!!

      Also, I’m nervous about the Melina Marchetta because you KNOW how much I love her contemps as well!!

  48. From your list I’ve only read Seraphina and Graceling – both which I thought were really good. I’d reccommend reading Seraphina first because DRAGONS but that’s just me. πŸ™‚

  49. I loved Graceling and Poison Study
    Have you read Alanna or Eon yet? Those were awesome too.

  50. I am also super new to fantasy! Quite a few of these are on my TBR as well.

  51. There are some books on this list I need to read too haha!! Here is my Top Ten Tuesday if you wanna check it out πŸ™‚ http://bookbabble.weebly.com/blog/top-ten-tuesday1

  52. As a huge fantasy lover, I am quite embarrassed to admit that I have only read Graceling from your list… I do own Finnikin of the Rock, though I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet… Well. In that case, to answer your question, you need to read Graceling ASAP! So good! And some recommendations for the fantasy genre I have are: anything by Robin McKinley, but specifically The Hero and the Crown and Chalice.

    • Graceling has gotten the most nods here in the comments so I think I’m going to start there! And thanks for the rec!!

  53. I really liked Graceling, but I still haven’t read the other two even though it’s been about three years! The Study Series is really great, too, and I’m excited that there’s going to be more coming!

    The only other one of these I’ve read was Finnikin of the Rock which I liked just fine, but it’s really not as good as the following two books and didn’t really fit to me.

    • Okay so I feel like I heard Graceling series isn’t like a traditionally series? Is this true or am I thinking of another series that the books are just loosely connected?

      Thanks for your input!

  54. The Demon King is SO amazing. I read the whole quartet last May, and I was blown out of the water. And the last book was by far the best in the series in my opinion! As for books that I need to read that are on that list… Graceling, Seraphina, and the Falling Kingdoms for sure. Those all have been on my TBR for awhile. Even better, I’ve heard that Falling Kingdoms is a six book series, and I love long Fantasy series, so I can’t wait to get my mittens on a copy.

    • OOOh I didn’t know Falling Kingdoms was 6 books! That’s even more delightful then! I’m so into the Throne of Glass series for that reason.

      Also your enthusiasm for The Demon King is infectious!!!

  55. You really can’t go wrong with any of the books you listed! They are all so good (I haven’t read them all but close). Of the ones you listed my top 3 would be Graceling, The Thief, and then Seraphina. But also love The Burning Sky and just read its sequel yesterday! I can’t wait for you to read more of these because you are in for such a good time πŸ™‚

  56. I nominate Poison Study as the MUST READ. It’s one of my favorites and it’s just SO GOOD. I love the characters, the plot, and the world. All fantastic.

  57. Francis Hamm says:

    Some nice choices in that list. I think you should add a recent David Kuklis fantasy novel to that list. Escape from Netherworld was my top pick from 2014 and actually one of the better fantasy books I have ever owned.
    The author writes epic battles and action really beautifully and the whole concept of the story is so much fun to read. Well worth taking a moment to check out some of the reviews for this one.

  58. I was SO OBSESSED with the Cinda Williams Chima series you’ve got on this list. I was so glad I waited until all of the books were out before I read it, because I ended up reading all four of them in a single summer. SO GOOD. (The first book starts off slow, but stick with it because it’s definitely worth it, and all of the things that happen end up being really important later on in the series.)